Their concerns are valid, because their work is a culmination of inspired creativity mixed with influences that informed their worldviews and writing. In other words, they stand on the shoulders of giants, and every cyclical adaptation of great fantasy must be treated with respect.
In interviews, they’ve credited inspirations from the likes of Richard Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung, that Old English Beowulf poem, Robert E. Howard’s Conan, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Charles Dickens, Williams Shakespeare and even the Bible.
Safe to say, without these influences, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter and A Game of Thrones would have been (God forbid) entirely different.
To adapt an idea and truly make it original or fresh, especially something as complex as a fantasy novel, the creator needs to respect the source material while improving the experience.
In today’s reality, it gets harder, especially when they are influenced by a technological, bureaucratic or social media spin. For example, the book-to-screen adaptations of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea and Terry Brooks’ The Shannara Chronicles flopped because they failed to stay true to the authors’ source material or improve the experience for today’s audience.
So, as a consumer, is it possible for me to accept film and TV adaptations of these beloved fantasy works in good faith, or listen to their audiobooks with a fresh perspective? Will the experience move me as much as reading the books when I was growing up?
More importantly, will I feel transported as if I’m literally there, and help me form emotional connections with the characters? If these adaptations can at least succeed in doing these, they’re halfway there in offering something original and fresh beyond the source material.
At 95,356 words, Tolkien’s The Hobbit takes between 6-7 hours to read. With the audiobook though, it’s between 10-11 hours if you set it at 1.0x speed.
The reason you would take your time is because this is a 2020 recording with Andy Serkis as narrator. Yes, Mr. Smeagol/Gollum himself. Listening to Mr. Serkis narrates Tolkien’s book is ultra special, not just because he reads with different voices, intonation and depth, his rendition of Gollum in Chapter 5: Riddles in the Dark, takes you back to the CGI character of the same name from Peter Jackson’s trilogy (yesss, in all his “My Precioussss” glory).
Using his deep bass British-accented voice, he keeps his reading pace easy to follow, helping me fill in the blanks as he describes Bag End, Rivendell, Lake-town and the Lonely Mountain.
As for the film adaptation, sadly, Peter Jackson’s trilogy was criticised as a bloat-fest, with scenes too violent for children and exposition too draggy for adults. So, whether you’ve read the book or seen the films, I would place Serkis’ interpretation of The Hobbit as a stand-out masterpiece.
The audiobooks for The Lord of the Rings-split into three books, last between 16 to 20 hours each. While I could speed up the narration speed to 2.0x, I settled on 1.25x instead.
With narration by Rob Inglis, who’s been known to do one-man stage dramatisations of Tolkien’s works, he reads all three books like a king delivering an impassioned speech in court.
Naturally, there will be moments when character voices sound near similar, but Inglis peppers his narration with either a Dahl-like youthfulness or an age-old nobility. In hindsight, his voice sounds like a cross between John Noble (who played Denethor) and Bernard Hill (who played King Theoden of Rohan) from the film trilogy.
While the film trilogy is much loved and captured the charm of the hobbits, the resilience of Gandalf, the fellowship of humans, elves and dwarves against the impenetrable doom of Sauron, Saruman and their minions, the audiobooks still have their places as a reminder of moments the filmmakers deliberately left out.
For example, there are 20 songs and poems throughout the books, deep-dives into the history of Middle-Earth, which the films only show/mention in passing (eg. the Old Forest), and missing characters (eg. Tom Bombadil). If you’re expecting a love story between Aragorn and …